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From the Archives: As St. Louis crowns Frontiere, Rams fans are left holding the bag

More than two decades after they left town, the Rams will return to Los Angeles for the 2016 season. This column was published 21 years ago. Frontiere died in 2008 at the age of 80.

The coronation of Queen Georgia, Empress of St. Louis, was something to behold, assuming you were beholding an air-sickness bag while you watched the live cable feed from Cervantes Convention Center.

“I’m a little overwhelmed,” Queen Georgia confided to her adoring audience, who welcomed her to the podium with cheers, whoops, whistles, deafening applause and not one “PLEASE GEORGIA, SELL THE TEAM” banner.

“I don’t think I’ve been this happy since the last game we won.”

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In St. Louis, this breezy one-liner brought forth a deluge of laughter.

In Orange County, you imagined ashtrays and coffee mugs being flung through television screens.

“We’re embarking on a journey,” Queen Georgia continued, and don’t think we don’t know it. From Cleveland to Los Angeles to Anaheim to St. Louis to who-knows-where next, the journey never ends for this franchise.

Truth be told, the Rams, not the Cowboys, have always been America’s Team. America’s Squatters. The travelogue now reads: three states, three time zones, four cities and no trips to the victory stand to accept the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

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Can’t be everywhere at once.

“A lot of things will have to happen,” Queen Georgia continued, “to make the Rams the team that we all envision, and I’m going to make sure those begin the minute this conference is over.”

Alas, that minute passed, along with many more, and Frontiere still held controlling interest in the team.

NFL owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles and give the San Diego Chargers the option to join. The Oakland Raiders will not be moving to Los Angeles.

“I grew up here,” Queen Georgia reminded her people, her new ready-to-shell-out-$250-to-$4,500-in-seat-licensing-fees constituency, “and one thing about the people of St. Louis and all of my teachers, they instilled in me the principles of honesty, integrity, persistence and the will to succeed.”

Shoot, St. Louis, anyone in Orange County could have told you that.

“All I can say,” Queen Georgia concluded, “I never stopped loving and being proud of St. Louis, and I’m so thrilled to be back and to be able to bring something to what I will always consider my hometown.”

Although she is maintaining her residences in Arizona and Southern California.

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“Thank you very much.”

And then, Queen Georgia was into her Rocky routine, thrusting both arms triumphantly in the air, shaking her right fist as it clenched a black Magic Marker, before moving over to a wall-sized “NFL Franchise Relocation Agreement,” where she dotted her I’s and crossed her T at precisely 2:58 (CST).

Just like that, Tom Dempsey’s blocked field goal and Tom Mack’s motionless offsides infraction and Jim Everett’s invisible sack and Eric Dickerson’s 47-Gap out of town all were bumped back a notch on the Rams’ all-time checklist of moments in infamy.

We have a new champion--this snippet of videotape featuring Frontiere gloating and exulting over the demise of Southern California’s first major-league franchise, while Kool and the Gang’snoxious “Celebrate” boomed in the background.

“It made me sick to my stomach,” said agent Leigh Steinberg, Save the Rams point man, who watched the entire wretched episode from his Newport Beach office.

“OK, you got a team. But don’t cloak it as some moment of liberation--'Our long, arduous struggle to get a football team.’ How about that one? They made it sound like they were putting an end to apartheid in South Africa.

“This is a naked steal. They are stealing a football team. It’s not theirs. They lost their own team, and the last year they had the Cardinals, they had 11,000 fans at one of their games. We get 11,000 people for a garage sale.”

Steinberg angrily recounted St. Louis’ unrequited romance with the NFL, post-Cardinals.

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“They lost their team, so they tried to steal the New England Patriots. That fell apart when the Patriots were sold to a local guy.

“Then they went back for a third bite and applied for an expansion team. Paul Tagliabue is carefully building a league for the future, he just signed a TV contract with Fox, which attracts a young audience. He looked at St. Louis and said, ‘No, we want to move into the Sun Belt.’

“Now, they’ve gone in for a fourth bite. They’ve stolen the Rams. It’s not good for the NFL and it’s not good for professional sports.”

Steinberg insisted that Save the Rams would fight on, continuing to lobby for the eight votes required at March’s NFL owners meeting to block the move.

“I believe the votes are there,” Steinberg said. “Maybe not among the newer owners, who think this is only about money, but the older owners, who believe in such concepts as ‘league’ and ‘fairness.’

“No owner will say anything publicly. I would expect them to support the Rams publicly or just be neutral. When the San Francisco Giants announced they were moving to Tampa, it’s not like the owners in the National League were saying, ‘Bad Bob Lurie, we’re not going to let him leave.’

“Things move quietly and behind closed doors in the NFL. I think we have a viable chance.”

It’s not much to hang an L.A. Rams cap on, but, for the next two months, anyway, it’s something.

“Don’t give up hope,” was Steinberg’s advice to local Ram fans. “The fight’s not over till it’s over. We’re not trying to win the Jeane Dixon prognostication award here--'Yes, this negative thing is sure to happen and I did nothing about it.’

“Pick up your pens and write to Paul Tagliabue and owners around the NFL. Tell them, ‘This is not right.’ Professional sports is one of the few businesses were corporate presidents read their mail. We know Georgia Frontiere does. In the NFL, public support of a cause can make a difference.”

Write on the back of those air sickness bags.

Assuming a few went unused Tuesday.

ALSO FROM THE ARCHIVES: Remembering when the Rams left

Ram fans kept the faith while team lost it

She’s St. Louis’ misery, and it can have her


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